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49ers WR Jauan Jennings and the case for more offensive snaps

Jul 7, 2024 at 1:35 PM



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The San Francisco 49ers offense have a very good problem on their hands – there are so many playmakers that it makes it occasionally challenging for head coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff to utilize them efficiently and effectively.

In 2020, the 49ers front office selected Tennessee Volunteer wide receiver Jauan Jennings in the seventh round (pick 217). With a very minimal chance to make the roster, Jennings was given an opportunity to prove his worth, and that is all he needed.

Jennings would go on to post a career 78 receptions for 963 total yards and seven touchdowns since his draft selection. While the statistics don't seem promising, it truly does not explain the bigger picture. The 26-year-old has carved out a role for the 49ers' offense and has displayed a very 'clutch-like' ability when his number is called upon.

Earning the nickname 'Third and Jauan', Jennings was a huge difference maker in the team's postseason run. On 3rd and 10, down 21-17 in the fourth quarter of the Divisional matchup against the Green Bay Packers, Jennings caught a key reception over the middle of the field, setting up his team in prime position to score. The 49ers would go on to win 24-21 and without Jennings' production, particularly the clutch catch, the end result could have been much different. Fast forward only a week later to the NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions, quarterback Brody Purdy threw the football up on 3rd and 4 and Jennings caught it one-handed to move the chains; the rest was history as the 49ers came storming back to secure their second Super Bowl appearance in under five years.

Jennings is a fan-favorite and someone who works extremely hard. He was recently awarded with a two-year $15.4 million contract extension just this offseason. We are now going to make the case for more offensive snaps for Jennings in 2024 despite the recent addition of first-round talent Ricky Pearsall and other offensive weapons currently on this loaded 49ers roster.

1. Proven Production


Since entering the league in 2020, there has been no other NFL receiver more clutch on third downs than Jennings. In the postseason just this past year, Jennings caught eight first downs on ten receptions and gave quarterback Brock Purdy a 133.0 passer rating when targeted.

This information comes from a Pro Football Focus article by Lauren Gray, in which Jennings was tabbed as the eighth best wide receiver in the open-target metric. Gray would go on to praise Jennings and how he was a big difference maker for the 49ers in their postseason run stating, "Jennings ranked fifth on the 49ers in target rate (16.8%), catching 29 passes for 376 yards. He stepped up in the postseason, gaining eight first downs on 10 catches while leading the team in passer rating when targeted (133.0). The fifth-year receiver enters training camp set to battle rookies Ricky Pearsall and Jacob Cowing for slot duties in 2024."

Gray hit the nail on the head when discussing the training camp battle between Jennings and Pearsall/Cowing for the slot receiver duties. Even though convincing 49ers Faithful that Jennings should gain more offensive snaps in 2024 is relatively easy as he is a favorite and a standup young man, the drafting of Pearsall does put some question marks in the air.

Having proven production, especially his postseason heroics, makes the case for more reps and being a larger offensive threat within the offense this upcoming season.

2. Strong Work Ethic


There's no question that Jennings displays a very strong work ethic. He is a player who embodies what it means to be a San Francisco 49er. While his production on the field has been great, his offseason workouts show someone who is not only determined to improve, but someone who loves the game and his teammates.

According to Coach Yac on X, formerly Twitter, Jennings is working with George Kittle and Trent Taylor this offseason.


Other videos on social media show his route-running ability and how he is locked in and focused on improvement.


In an interview after the AFC Championship Game, Shanhan was asked if Jennings was the most 'ferocious run-blocking wide receiver he's ever coached'. In response he said, "Probably. What he did driving that guy into the Gatorade is what he does every day at practice. Our defense tried to fight him last year because they thought he was going above and beyond."

While having the head coach seal of approval is always positive, Shanahan would continue to praise the youthful receiver by discussing his blocking style in practice.


No one should even begin to question Jennings' work ethic as he is someone who cares deeply and strives to improve each day. Giving him even more opportunities this year will benefit the offensive production and is something that I strongly encourage.

3. Experience in Shanahan's Offense


This will be the fourth training camp for Jennings and his experience in Shanahan's offense is the last reason why he should be earning more reps. Pearsall will need to adapt to the NFL lifestyle and atmosphere while Jennings already has experienced it for three full years. Having this experience is very crucial as Shanahan's offense demands a lot out of the athletes. Being able to properly block, route-running being an art, and understanding where to be and how to find voids within a zone defense or beating man-to-man coverage are different aspects of the game that Jennings is used to and has done very effectively.

Final Thoughts:


Jennings caught 19 receptions in the regular season for 265 total yards and one touchdown. In the postseason, he caught 10 receptions for 111 total yards and one touchdown. He played a more prominent role in three playoff games than in a full seventeen game regular season. The clutch plays and excellent blocking style that he displays should warrant more offensive snaps in 2024 for the seventh round gem.


What are your thoughts on Jennings earning more offensive reps in a crowded receiver room? Let us know in the comment section and answer our poll below.

Poll

  • Does Jauan Jennings deserve more offensive reps in 2024?
  • Yes - Find a way, Shanahan!
  • No - We used a first-round pick on Pearsall... He should start!
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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